As gaming continues to gain favor with Gen Z and millennials, marketers have explored the role their brands can play in the emergent digital space. But when dealing with cohorts that are largely skeptical of advertising, finding a way to naturally integrate can prove a tedious task. Hershey’s decided to take the plunge into gaming with intrinsic in-game advertising, a method that seamlessly blended one of its brands into select titles.
In an experimental six-week campaign, Hershey’s placed advertisements for its Oh Henry! candy bar into premium sports, simulation, racing and casual games, targeting players who were at least 18 years old. Nearly 21.9 million impressions were delivered from the effort, along with 6.9 point lift in purchase intent. Additionally, the percentage of consumers who said the candy would satisfy their hunger rose by 7.6 points, while those who thought it would provide an energy boost rose by 8.4 points.
Above all else, the advertisements increased mobile ad recall by 15.9 points to twice the industry average, according to information shared by GumGum, a digital advertising platform that supported the effort.
“The Oh Henry! brand tested out intrinsic in-game advertising as the gaming audience is highly relevant to the brand, especially as consumers look to fuel up while they are leveling up in game,” said Susanne Hartkorn, associate marketing manager of Oh Henry!, in an email to Marketing Dive. “By targeting gamers with relevant messaging, the Oh Henry! brand is able to reach both new younger consumers as well as lapsed.”
Intrinsic advertising is a way of reaching players through advertising without disrupting gameplay. For example, instead of serving pop-ups between levels, an advertisement appears on an in-game billboard or stadium screen. The method has been touted as the future of video game advertising, especially as consumers look for a more seamless gaming experience.
“[You] don’t want to introduce any sort of… methods or mechanics that basically disrupt the gameplay,” said Jonathon Troughton, CEO at Frameplay, a software company that worked on the Oh Henry! campaign. “That leads to people leaving … if you have people leaving those experiences, it’s a lower natural value, so obviously you want to do as much as you can to enhance that experience and make sure that’s not disruptive.”
The importance of naturally integrated advertising is reinforced by research. Data from Comscore cited by Frameplay found that one in three gamers say advertisements negatively impact their gaming experience. Additionally, Comscore reported that 72% of gamers expect product placement to be relevant to either them or the game, while only 18% indicated they would prefer fictitious brands to appear in games.
Mobile devices have risen to be the most popular format for gameplay, becoming the preferred option for 43.2% of surveyed consumers. Console games came in second at 31.1% and PC gaming came after, accounting for 24.8% of consumer preference.
Comscore was also used to measure Hershey’s in-game success, finding that advertisements that aligned contextually with the gameplay environment increased purchase intent. GumGum will continue to pilot its in-game strategy with Frameplay through the end of the year, with plans to make it widely available in the first half of 2023.
“These results show how powerful that immersive and content-aligned ads within gaming can be — unlocking a new environment for advertisers to connect with audiences within,” wrote GumGum CEO Phil Schraeder in an email.